UN relocating 600 staff after Taliban attack

The United Nations said today that it is temporarily relocating more than half its staff in Afghanistan following last week's deadly Taliban attack.

The UN mission is still reeling from a pre-dawn assault on a guesthouse in the capital last week that left five UN staff dead.

The Kabul attack was the most direct targeting of UN employees during the organisation's decades of work in the country.

Some 600 non-essential staff will be moved for four to five weeks to more secure locations in and outside Afghanistan while the body works to find safer permanent housing, spokesman Aleem Siddique said.

The majority of the UN's 1,100 international staff in Afghanistan live the capital, spread out among more than 90 guesthouses.

The plan is to consolidate those living arrangements so staff can be better protected, Mr Siddique said.

He stressed this was not a pull-out or a scale-down in operations. About 80% of the UN's staff in Afghanistan are Afghan citizens.

"We've been here for over half a century and we're not about to go any time soon," Mr Siddique said.

In the 28 October attack, gunmen wearing suicide vests stormed a private guesthouse where dozens of UN staff lived, killing five UN workers and three Afghans.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the assault, saying they intentionally targeted UN employees working on the recent presidential election.

Much UN work in Afghanistan has been put on hold since the attack and employees have been given the option to take leave while officials consider how to better protect employees.

The move comes on the heels of a UN decision to suspend much of its work in the volatile north-west of neighbouring Pakistan because of increasingly targeted attacks.